Notes Psychology

The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Part II, Chapter 4: Dissolutions)

Part Two: The Cosmogonic Cycle

Jesus on the mount of olives
Jesus on the mount of olives

Chapter 4: Dissolutions

1. End of the Microcosm

In this chapter, Campbell discusses the final part of the hero journey, death. There are two types of deaths that mythologies describe, the first is personal, and the second is universal. “The End of the Microcosm” is the personal death of the hero. But our deaths are described as the moment we are released from our mortal bodies and are returned to the divinity that existed within ourselves.

“When he comes to weakness—whether he come to weakness through old age or through disease—this person frees himself from these limbs just as a mango, or a fig, or a berry releases itself from its bond; and he hastens again, according to the entrance and place of origin, back to life. As noblemen, policemen, chariot-drivers, village-heads wait with food, drink, and lodgings for a king who is coming, and cry: ‘Here he comes! Here he comes!’ so indeed do all things wait for him who has this knowledge and cry: ‘Here is the Imperishable coming! Here is the Imperishable coming!’” – Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

There is Aztec prayer that was said on the deathbed of the departed that warned them of the dangers along the way back to the god of the dead, Tzontémoc.

“He of the Falling Hair.” “Dear child! Thou hast passed through and survived the labors of this life. Now it hath pleased our Lord to carry thee away. For we do not enjoy this world everlastingly, only briefly; our life is like the warming of oneself in the sun. And the Lord hath conferred on us the blessing of knowing and conversing with each other in this existence; but now, at this moment, the god who is called Mictlantecutli, or Aculnahuâcatl, or again Tzontémoc, and the goddess known as Mictecacihuatl, have transported thee away. Thou art brought before His seat; for we all must go there: that place is intended for us all, and it is vast.”


“We are to have of thee no further recollection. Thou wilt reside in that place most dark, where there is neither light nor window. Thou wilt not return or depart from thence; nor wilt thou think about or concern thyself with the matter of return. Thou wilt be absent from among us for ever more. Poor and orphaned hast thou left thy children, thy grandchildren; nor dost thou know how they will end, how they will pass through the labors of this life. As for ourselves, we shall soon be going there where thou art to be.”

After wrapping the bodies of the dead properly in preparation for the funeral, the Aztec ancients and officials pour water on the head of the diseased, and say to them,

“This thou didst enjoy when thou wert living in the world.” And they took a small jug of water and presented it to him, saying: “Here is something for thy journey”


“Lo, with this thou wilt be able to go between the mountains that clash.” “With this thou wilt pass along the road where the serpent watcheth.” “This will satisfy the little green lizard, Xochitonal.” “And behold, with this thou wilt make the transit of the eight deserts of freezing cold.”


“Here is that by which thou wilt go across the eight small hills.” “Here is that by which thou wilt survive the wind of the obsidian knives.”

2. End of the Macrocasm

In the same way the individual being dissolved in the end, so too does the universe.

“When it is known that after the lapse of a hundred thousand years the cycle is to be renewed, the gods called Loka byuhas, inhabitants of a heaven of sensual pleasure, wander about through the world, with hair let down and flying in the wind, weeping and wiping away their tears with their hands, and with their clothes red and in great disorder.


‘Sirs, after the lapse of a hundred thousand years the cycle is to be renewed; this world will be destroyed; also the mighty ocean will dry up; and this broad earth, and Sumeru, the monarch of mountains, will be burnt up and destroyed—up to the Brahma world will the destruction of the world extend. Therefore, sirs, cultivate friendliness; cultivate compassion, joy, and indifference; wait on your mothers; wait on your fathers; and honor your elders among your kinsfolk.’


“This is called the Cyclic-Uproar.” – Buddhism in Translations

Campbell concludes with a passage from Mathew about Jesus’ prophecy of the end of times.

“And as Jesus sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?


“And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.


Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.


“When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand: ) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the house top not come down to take anything out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.”


“Then if any man shall say unto you: Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcase is there will the eagles be gathered together.


Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. . . . But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.”- Matthew, 24:3-36.

The Hero with a Thousand Faces (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell)The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Part II, Chapter 4: Dissolutions) 1

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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